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Secretive ACTA Copyright Treaty and How it Threatens Internet Freedom
The ACTA Copyright Treaty and Why You Should Care
May 4, 2010
After years of secrecy, the eighth round of talks aimed at drafting an international treaty called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) recently concluded in New Zealand — and in the face of public pressure, a version of the text was subsequently made available to the public. The ACTA is neither a trade agreement nor one focused primarily on counterfeiting, but a copyright deal featuring provisions on Internet service provider and Internet company liability, DMCA-style notice and takedown requirements, legal protection for digital locks, and requirements for statutory damages that could result in millions in liability for non-commercial infringement — even heightened searches at border crossings.
Ever since the ACTA partners — among them the U.S., E.U., Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Morocco and Singapore — announced negotiations plans in October 2007, ACTA has been dogged by controversy over a near-total lack of transparency. Early talks were held in secret locations with each participating country offering virtually identical, cryptic press releases that did little more than fuel public concern. Now that the ACTA text is public, some might wonder whether there’s still cause for concern. Indeed, given widespread support for measures that target genuine commercial counterfeiting, some might believe it’s time to actively support ACTA. It’s not — at least not this version.
From a transparency perspective, the text release still feels like the exception to the general secrecy rule. The ACTA governments have revealed that the next round of negotiations will take place in Switzerland in June, but currently refuse to provide a specific location or dates. Moreover, the official release scrubbed all references to country positions (such information was available in a previously leaked version), so as to U.S. government claims that ACTA is fully consistent with current U.S. law, at this point we have to take their word for it.
DRAFT OF SECRETIVE INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT TREATY LEAKED
On the table: losing internet access due to infringement allegations, and widespread data sharing across national borders.
Posted April 19, 2010
Negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) resumed last week in Wellington, New Zealand, with Canada, the United States, the European Union, and a handful of other countries launching the eighth round of talks. While even the most optimistic ACTA supporters do not expect to conclude an agreement before the end of the year, the next five days may prove to be a pivotal point in the negotiations since over the past several weeks, there have been two major leaks that could dramatically alter the still-secret discussions.
The first leak was an internal Dutch government document chronicling the positions of each ACTA participant on treaty transparency. The level of ACTA secrecy is highly unusual for an agreement focused on intellectual property issues, leading to a steady stream of parliamentary resolutions and political demands for transparency coming from around the globe.
US insists on keeping treaty secret
The standard response to transparency criticisms from many governments (including Canada) was to claim that they favored releasing the ACTA text to the public, but that other unnamed countries did not. Since there was no consensus, the text could not be released.
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